We can’t hold kids accountable for things we’ve never told them we expect. Behavior should be treated like academics. Students have to be taught the skills the need.
~Erin Green, Director of National Training at Boys Town
New beginnings are hard for all of us. Usually, we are able to practice before being publicly scrutinized. The Coronavirus pandemic took away educators right to practice a new skill before full implementation. The global pandemic in itself is stressful enough, but the stress is compounded for teachers. In addition to managing your own families, creating classrooms for yourself and your children, many of you are also working to navigate an online classroom without the adequate amount of training, planning lessons using platforms that you just recently discovered, all while hoping the internet connection is stable enough to make it through the school day. When could you have possibly had enough time to create an online behavior framework for students. Let’s face it. There is no research-based information to help guide us through this process, so we are going to use the best thing that we have….each other… to work through this and so many other things. Don’t worry! Educator collaboration has gotten us through this and so many other things. Together we can overcome any obstacle.
Before, I give recommendations for moving forward. I think its important to remind each of us to cut our students some slack. Just as we are new to online learning, imagine how our students feel. For many, they went to school one day and then suddenly were forced to stay home, many inside of their homes for almost six months. How much interaction do you think they have had with their friends or even other children within their neighborhood? In my state, we spent an abundant amount of time under a stay at home order, were told to shrink our circle, and limit interactions with people outside of our immediate family. Children need to socialize. If they haven’t been able to do this and it is not built into your classroom routine, children will make noises, outbursts, and many other things to get their peers attention. Do you blame them? Imagine your first day back at work from the summer. You walk in and see your teammates and are forced to go sit without even being able to talk to them. Even worse, imagine that this interaction took place virtually. On the first day back, you see your teammates log on and immediately, your boss shares his/her screen without allowing you to see your team. Would you begin typing in the chat to strike up a conversation or sit idly waiting on the presentation to begin? Be honest. No one is around. Now that you have reflected, let’s talk about building a framework that promotes positive behavior in an online classroom.
PBIS.ORG offers this four-step plan for managing behavior in the online classroom:
Step #1: Behavior Breath: Take a breath before responding. Pause, collect your thoughts, and respond directly to the behavior that is being displayed.
Step #2: Opportunity Rewind: Look at this time as an opportunity to review the expected behaviors and provide all students with the opportunity to make better choices. Consider posting your behavior expectations in the background of your virtual learning space to provide a visual for students and make it easier to refer to them throughout the lesson.
Step #3: Consider the Cause: Have you stopped to think about what might be triggering the behavior that students are exhibiting? If you are really interested in stopping inappropriate behavior, you will need to talk to the student to find out the cause. One of my favorite quotes is written by Annette Breaux. It says 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart.
Step #4: Concrete Categorizations: If your school’s PBIS/RTI2-B team has not already done so, consider creating a matrix of expected behaviors and steps for classroom intervention & school-wide intervention for the online environment. If you need a little inspiration to craft or add to your behavior framework, consider these categories—classroom arrival, your virtual learning space, and dismissal procedures, Zoom/TEAMS/Google Handout etiquette. Once you have completed your matrix, discuss it with parents and students.
Bonus step: Behavior Citations: How will you document student behavior in the virtual environment? Apps such as Class Dojo, Bloomz, LiveSchool, Kickboard are great for communicating with parents about students behavior.
As your procedures and routines continue to evolve for virtual learning, consider one of these to help promote positive student behavior:
Lesson Forecasting: How do structure your lessons? Do you follow the same format, so students know what to expect? If not, do you provide students with an overview to give them something to look forward to?
Get Rid of Distractors: Are there procedures that you can put in place to help minimize distractions at the beginning of class? What occurs within the first couple of minutes of a class sets the tone for the time you are spending with students.
Expectations Staples: The first few weeks of school are critical. How much time do you devote to letting students know the behavior that is expected of them?
Equity of Student Voice: How often do you allow students to talk to you or each other? Communications can be done in both a written or verbal format. Have you included time for icebreakers, teambuilding, collaborative games, and group or partner discussions? The ability to turn around student behavior is contingent on the relationship that you have with the student prior to them behaving inappropriately. If you haven’t already allotted time within your class period, during the day, or currently have office hours for students to drop in and talk to you, these are all great ways to get to know your students. It’s not too late, you can always build new routines and procedures into your current practices.
Principles for Parents: Have you set aside time to communicate with parents? During March 2020, parents were suddenly thrust into the world of education. Many are not in the educational field and have no idea how to create a classroom within their homes. Have you offered any guidance to parents about setting aside a quiet space for their children to learn, talking to them about classroom etiquette—not eating during class, about checking in on their children without distracting them during class, or about the importance of their child completing his/her own assignments.
Follow up with Feedback: What does your current feedback loop look like? Feedback is a great way to let students know that you value them and their work. How often are you currently providing students with feedback within the virtual environment? Is it personalized or generically given to the entire class? Spiral, Seesaw, One Note, and Peergrade are just a few online tools that you might find useful.
Rewards & Consequences: How often do you reward students for behaving appropriately? Are you using a verbal or visual system to provide rewards? If you only acknowledge inappropriate behavior or assign consequences, then students who want/need to be recognized will begin seeking negative attention. For some students, any attention is better than not being acknowledged.
As always, thanks for visiting DigitalPD4You.com. I will be back next week with another Educator Reflection Tip. If you are interested in adding Podcast PD to your morning or afternoon routine, look for the Digital PD 4 You podcast on Anchor, Apple Podcast, Spotify and other platforms. Just in case, here is a direct link to help you find the right platform for you: anchor.fm/jami-white. I hope that each of you have a great week of teaching and learning.